Nishi Malhotra

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Kerala Diaries 3/6: Chilli Mangoes in Kanya Kumari

  • Nishi Malhotra
  • Travel
  • July 9, 2020
  • (0)

Day 3: Kanya Kumari was far far better than I had expected from this touristy destination. I drove through rural Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the Padmanabhapuram Palace first, a lovely Travancore-era palace that is so different from the lavish and grand fortresses of North India. The weather held up and the sun was shining brightly over Kanya Kumari as I took the boat to Vivekananda Rock - the line at the ferry terminal was long so I whiled away time clicking pictures, surreptitiously, of the diverse faces from around the country that had come to see the southern tip of India. Kanya Kumari must be the only place in Tamil Nadu where every guide, vendor, hawker speaks excellent Hindi - I guess they have to in order to do business with us Northies.

Back from visiting the Rock, I wandered around the Gandhi Memorial area, eating mangoes laced with chillies, boiled salted peanuts from a paper cone, and banana bhajjis from a dhaba.

Baijju, my driver, accompanied me. I have been remiss in not mentioning this kind, smiling and helpful guy, who must be in his late 30s. Baijju is very concerned that I eat only organic food. He ensured that the bananas we bought near Kovalam were from the old man who sells pesticide-free fruit. Now, in Kanya Kumari, he warned me against chewing on the skin of the mangoes, which he says are ripened using chemicals. For his family, he says, he only buys free range brown eggs.

Our communication has been a little difficult because of his limited English but we still managed to have a three-way political discussion with the owner of the provision store where I bought my umbrella in Kovalam - they both politely dissed Modi and even their native politician Shashi Tharoor (about whom my hostess has some conspiracy theories). I was educated about the Communist Party by the two of them, and later my hostess told me about the 2 km long line waiting to hear Noam Chomsky (the libertarian socialist from America) speak when he came to Trivandrum.

I returned late at night to find my hostess (hereby known as M) laid up with stomach cramps and a Delhi belly, which she suspects is from muffins I brought her from Pondicherry (my previous stop)!! I made her some lemon water and fed the cat Meenu some "poisson" (it only understands French) and went to sleep dead tired.

M plans to come with me to Trivandrum if she is feeling better tomorrow. Let’s see…

(These Kerala diaries are from a trip I made to the Kovalam area in June 2017).

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